During today’s meeting, the Regents will debate an anticipated 32 percent student fee increase and a proposal to petition the state legislature for $913 million. The fee hike will almost certainly pass, while the bid for increased state funding is only an empty gesture — if California legislators had any intention of properly funding the state’s public universities, they would have already allocated that money in previous budget negotiations.
Students feel disproportionately targeted by the UC’s hikes and cuts, shouldering a large share of the budget shortfall as fees rise and services disappear. Moreover, there is no indication whether these adjustments will suffice or if further painful steps will be necessary. The UC student of tomorrow will pay more to receive less. It’s difficult to lay proper blame for this crisis when there are so many levels of bureaucracy in both the state government and UC administration.
While the Regents may have mismanaged the University’s response to this budget shortfall, the state’s divestment from public education has left the UC administration with very few feasible options. Many results of decreased funding on individual campuses, such as UCSB’s impending loss of the ESS program, result from decisions made internally rather than at the Regents level.
The current fiscal crisis is certainly to blame for slashed services and furloughed faculty and staff, but these furloughs will be up for review next year. On the other hand, if historical precedents hold, this fee increase will never be rescinded and students will be left holding the bill. With the promise of an economic recovery on the horizon, we recommend the Regents consider a provisional tuition increase. Just as faculty and staff furloughs will be up for review, students would like to know that this 32 percent hike is actually a measure to deal with a transitory crisis and not part of a general trend toward privatization of the University of California system.
While we understand that everyone must share in the pain of the current budget crunch, we hope the Regents realize that continued fee increases at the current rate undermine the UC’s mission statement by making college truly unaffordable for many students. The University must seek serious reforms on both the systemwide and campus levels to ensure the continued availability of higher education to all eligible Californians.